Symbols

Tuesday, there was a bit of excitement at the Courthouse where I work. At that courthouse stands a monument to the “Talbot Boys,” those citizens who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. Also at that Courthouse stands a statue of Frederick Douglass, who was a native son of Talbot County as a slave. An interesting dichotomy, to say the least. Several citizens, as well as the local chapter of the NAACP and the ACLU held a rally to protest the statue honoring the Confederate soldiers, requesting that the County Council vote to take down the statue or move it off the Courthouse grounds. At the same time, several other people milled about it. Many of them were in favor of keeping the statue where it is, some of them descendants of the people named on the statue. The Council had previously voted to keep the statue in place in a closed session, but that vote was  found to be in violation of the State of Maryland’s Open Meetings Act. So the Council voted again, and again they decided that the statue remain in place.

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Photo from the Easton Star-Democrat

As a black man, I suppose I should feel a certain way about a statue that honored soldiers that fought for a cause that supported the enslavement of my ancestors. I suppose I should feel a certain way about that statue being erected at the Courthouse, where the some of the county government (and state government) business is conducted. I suppose I should feel that because the ideology that was espoused by the Confederacy tended toward hate and bigotry, and that the location of the statue was once a slave market should also hold some sway as to whether or not I think it should be moved or come down.

Truly though, I am ambivalent about the whole thing.

The statue to me is a symbol of a history long gone. That era cannot be erased off the books. If the statue comes down, the history remains, but the symbol is gone. The ideology, still espoused by some even today, remains. Donald Trump, who can’t seem to help but say something racist almost every day, seems to not know or care about that history. I would be more impressed if we had a conversation about changing the hearts and minds of those who think in those terms, rather than the statue being removed.

It’s people that need to be moved. People. Not inanimate objects.

But I get the argument, and on a certain level, I agree with it. I also understand why the descendants would want the statue to remain where it is. But I don’t feel strongly enough either way. For me, as I go to work every day, it’s just there. Same as the Frederick Douglass statue. No statue has ever denied me a civil right. The people who feel the way people felt back in 1861 in the South might have, had they been in a position to do so. Much like Dylan Roof, the man who killed several black people in a church last year. That incident started the wave that caused the Confederate flag to be taken down in several places. Even so, his kind of thinking still remains.

I keep saying we need to have a real conversation about issues of race, but then we’d all have to come to the table and admit our prejudices—and that would make all of us uncomfortable. Yet it’s the only way to solve the age-old problem that symbols like the Talbot Boys bring to the forefront. Maybe one day, that conversation takes place. But I’m betting it won’t happen any time soon.

Besides, we can just remove statues. Maybe that will make us feel better.

11 Replies to “Symbols”

  1. Great post, Tracy! I’m a history buff so I enjoy reading posts like this. Wow, Frederick Douglas was from your side of the world! I never knew where he was from. I like your opinion on this matter.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with 100% T. Racism sickens me to the core. I do not care for the statues, confederate flags, etc. But, it cannot be erased. It is part of history. I get it. But, it still fucking pisses me off. Ignorance is still here today and I can’t for the life of me understand it. Fantastic post my friend.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hey Twin!

    First let me say that you did a fabulous job of addressing a very touchy subject. That said, thanks for a great post!

    As you said, symbols are powerful but change cannot happen until folks start really talking about the ugliness of racism and how it still exists.

    The first order of business needs to be a real discussion about institutional racism and how that really looks. For anybody who is unsure of how that looks, I give you exhibit A: The judge who gave the white Stanford student a slap on the wrist for raping an unconscious woman. The judge felt that a long jail sentence would not be a good thing for this guy.

    Whaaat?

    T. what do you think would have happened if that young man had been Latino or Black?

    I’ll wait…

    Here’s the answer, he would be UNDER the jail right now! How do I know? Because it happens all day every day! Oh please believe that, it would have been a long jail sentence for a poor white kid too; but that’s another topic that needs to be addressed on a different post. Maybe I’ll take that one up 🙂

    That’s what we, as individuals of society need to address! And by address, I mean effect change and not just fight paper tigers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well said, Twin! And thanks so much for the compliment and kind words on this post. The sentence the Stanford swimmer got was shameful, and like you say just another case of same old, same old.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Generally speaking, I am not a fan of statues anyway. No, let me clarify – it’s statues of actual people that I don’t like. It feels like hero worship to me, and I have issues with that. Anyway.

    The statue should not be on government property. Period. Statues or flags or anything else. It’s not about history – it’s a symbol of celebration and commemoration. And it doesn’t belong on government property. All issues of hate aside, if you look at it purely on a political level – the men were traitors. How many other governments in the world celebrate their traitors? I can’t think of any.

    But you’re absolutely right. Removing such symbols does NOTHING to improve the current state of affairs. People think that a simple removal of such things will remove the existence of racism. It absolutely will not – if only. Remove the statues and have meaningful, rational conversations about ethnicity, class, beliefs, etc. We are all one race: the human race. And those of us who do not believe that aren’t going to start with the removal of a statue. It takes conversation, open minds and willingness to embrace each other in love instead of hate.

    Liked by 1 person

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